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Discover the striking heritage sites and immerse yourself in the experiences and activities on offer at Arabia’s best-kept secret, which is now open to visitors all year round

THE OFFICIAL VISITOR GUIDE

ALUL A

■ ACTIVITIES TO BOOK TODAY ■ MUST-HAVE EXPERIENCES ■ WHERE TO STAY ■ WHERE TO EAT ■ ITINERARIES TO TRY ■ YOUR HANDY ALULA MAP


LOGOT YPE USES Application over coloured background. Prefer the golden textured version when possible.

WELCOME

P

erhaps you have seen the captivating photographs of the Nabataean 13 city Hegra, colourful hot air balloons rising above dramatic natural rock formations, and the architecturally striking mirrored concert and entertainment venue Maraya, which reflects the surrounding

desert landscape. But how much do you really know about AlUla? Stretching around 25,000km2 in size and located 1,000km northwest of

Riyadh, this world wonder is home to some of the best-preserved tombs and rock art sites of its era. While it’s not as well-known as some of its UNESCO World Heritage Site neighbours in Jordan and Egypt, that’s all about to change. Today, the historic crossroads that welcomed traders and pilgrims through the ages is open to visitors all year round. Home to more than

For the very first time in its 700 year old history, AlUla Old Town will be open to the public. Explore the labyrinth of mud brick buildings, go on a journey through the town with a rawi, explore the bazaar, watch live re-enactments, learn traditional handicrafts, browse the shops for spices, dates and pottery. This half day experience will be open from late December. Prices range from 67.50 to 135 SAR with discounts for children and locals. experiencealula.com

200,000 years of human history, and five successive civilisations over 7,000 years, AlUla is undergoing a careful and sensitive restoration to ready itself for modern-day guests. As details of its heritage continue to emerge (it’s still an active excavation site), you can write your own story by discovering the preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, historic dwellings and monuments that are both natural and human-made. Inside this guide, you will find all the information you need to get the most out of your visit. From the immersive experiences you simply cannot miss (p24) to all the exciting activities to tick off your wish list (p32), places to stay (p52), and where to go for a memorable meal (p62) – delve into our comprehensive round-up of everything that’s on offer. Plus, we asked a number of local experts and previous visitors to share their insight into making the most of your time in this monumental and aweinspiring destination – you’ll find their words woven throughout these pages. We hope you enjoy your visit to AlUla.

experiencealula.com Welcome 2 1


Khaybar

CONTENTS 4

12

Saudi Arabia

A snapshot of AlUla

INTRODUCTION

TIMELINE through the ages

6

MAP OF THE REGION Get your bearings

14

DID YOU KNOW? Check out these

7

CULTURE & TRADITIONS An insight into the people of AlUla

amazing facts

15

HISTORY A quick history lesson

11

ALULA MAP See where all the major sites and attractions are

on all the major sites

24

EXPERIENCES

located with our detailed

Must-have experiences

map of AlUla

to tick off your wish list

Dadan

32

76

The ultimate round-up

INFORMATION

of tours, trails and

A dossier of useful

activities on offer,

info, from travel tips

including how to book

to emergency numbers

44

79

Plan your days to

How to be a

perfection with our

responsible tourist

WHAT TO SEE & DO

ITINERARIES

LEAVE NO TRACE

suggested itineraries

52

80

HEALTH & SAFETY

WHERE TO STAY

Travel safety measures

High-end hotels, luxury

to help your trip run

desert camps and

smoothly

The Hot Air Balloon Festival at Hegra

trendy trailers

62

Cover: AlUla Oasis

WHERE TO EAT Restaurants, cafĂŠs, food trucks, pop-ups and more

68 FUTURE

DEVELOPMENTS A sneak peek at future

AlUla

USEFUL

developments

72

BEYOND ALULA

Tourism Call Centre: +966 920 025 003 experiencealula.com Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from Royal Commission for AlUla is strictly prohibited. The Royal Commission for AlUla does not accept liability for omissions or errors in this guidebook. The AlUla Quality Stamp is a sign of excellence awarded to businesses, service providers and touch points that are committed to upholding the highest standards of visitor experience across the destination. Look out for it at the time of booking to ensure a world-class visitor experience from start to finish.

Extend your visit to Saudi Arabia by tagging on a trip to these top destinations

Scan for the latest updates on experiencealula.com

AlUla is undergoing significant development to diversify the economy, give back to the community and welcome domestic and international visitors to one of the world’s most significant culture and heritage destinations. The information provided in this guide is correct at the time of printing. However, much ongoing work is being undertaken to bring further engaging experiences, accommodation, eateries and more to AlUla over the course of the next months and years. For the latest updates and information, see experiencealula.com or call our information line on +920025003.

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Contents 3


Al Faisaliah Hotel, Riyadh

Saudi Arabia

SHIFTING SANDS How the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia grew from humble roots into an Arab superpower

T

he Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 under the rule of King

Abdulaziz Al Saud, who united the which supercharged the country’s development. Yet to this day, the Kingdom stays true to its roots by blending culture, heritage and Islamic values with modernity. Saudi Arabia is home to the Two

Holy Mosques: Al Masjid Al Haram in Makkah, Islam’s holiest city and the site of the Kaaba, and The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. The country is blessed with a varied topography, including a generous portion of the Rub’ al Khali (a vast, unbroken sand desert that stretches across the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula), the Hijaz mountain range in the western region, and a beautiful stretch of Red Sea coast. The capital city, Riyadh, is the main financial metropolis while Jeddah, on the Red Sea, is a popular resort hub, as well as being a gateway for Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages. Today, the country is ruled by His Majesty King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy

*Source: UNWTO (arrivals of non-resident tourists at national borders)

land. Oil was discovered in 1938,

A minaret in Makkah

‘The Kingdom stays true to its roots, by blending culture, heritage and Islamic values with modernity’

Mosques, who ascended the throne in 2015. His son, His Royal Highness

development, to create a vibrant

explore. More than 400,000

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

society in which all citizens can fulfill

tourist visas were issued between

bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, who is first in

their dreams, hopes and ambitions

September 2019 and March 2020,

line to the throne, has been influential

to succeed in a diversified economy.

before the implementation of global

in diversifying the Kingdom’s economy and liberalising various laws. Currently, the government is

Part of this is opening its doors to tourists. Saudi Arabia received more than 13.6 million international

restrictions on air travel in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Arabian Peninsula has

working towards its Vision 2030,

tourists in 2019* and with the launch

long been a crossroads of

which sets out the longer-term

of the tourist eVisa programme in

ancient civilisations and Saudi

goals and expectations for the

September 2019, leisure travellers

Arabia’s hidden gem, AlUla, is an

nation. It marks a new phase of

are being encouraged to go and

extraordinary example of this.

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Saudi Arabia 5


Culture & traditions

THE PEOPLE OF ALULA

REGIONAL MAP

Ahmed Alimam, the first rawi of AlUla, shares an insight into the culture of the local people and their treasured traditions

Jordan

Egypt

Neom

KUWAIT

ALULA

Dammam Riyadh

good deeds for the teacher, such

rich ancestry and are resilient,

as collecting water or firewood, in

self-sufficient and, of course,

exchange for teaching your children.

they love welcoming guests,”

So the new school gave the youth

says Ahmed Alimam, the first rawi

of that generation an opportunity

(traditional Arabic storyteller) of AlUla.

to get a job. Many who graduated

“The families who live here have

BAHRAIN QATAR

Dubai UAE

Jeddah

The people of AlUla have a

records tracing their lineage over 600

and Tabuk, or at government

and tourism, with a chance to study in

years. People generally know the exact

offices around the Kingdom. So

France, the US, the UK and Australia

date their ancestors came to AlUla,

we have something of a missing

before returning to work in AlUla.

where they travelled from and why.

generation from AlUla, although

The papers usually record what items

some of them do return to retire.

they brought with them, whose house

“Nowadays, many students have

“I grew up in a family that was naturally very interested in the history and heritage of AlUla Old Town.

they stayed in and if they later went

taken part in a scholarship programme,

Many of our conversations revolved

on to buy their own house and farm.

which invites them to earn a degree in

around the civilisations that lived here

My family name means ‘the person

agriculture, archaeology, or hospitality

and every weekend we would visit

who leads people in the prayer’, as one of my great grandfathers was the Imam of the mosque in 851 AH

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

went on to work in Riyadh, Jeddah

‘The families here have records tracing their lineage over 600 years’

(in the Islamic calendar – around

A local artisan shows her skills

1448/1449 CE). One of my other

Red Sea

grandfathers worked as a tribal judge.

Oman

“The ways in which the people lived have evolved over time. More than 200 years ago, the community needed to defend and protect their homes and natural reserves from potential attack from outsiders. With an impenetrable wall around AlUla Old Town, residents could happily live inside for many years due to the plentiful supply of water from the natural springs, the lush vegetation and palm trees, which provided materials for many uses, from building our homes to making our clothes. “Around 70-80 years ago, things changed when one of the first government schools in Saudi Arabia was opened in AlUla. The payment to attend school before this was doing

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Culture & traditions 7


Restaurant covered in palm fronds

‘We are excited that AlUla is returning to its roots as a crossroads for cultural exchange’

the town, the farms and go climbing in the mountains. My mum used to take her sheep and goats to feed at the desert springs, so we have a solid experience of exploring the land and all the major heritage sites.

Hijaz Railway

‘A fascinating collection of more than 100 tombs tell the tale of the ancient people and culture of AlUla’

“I studied English and graduated in 2008, when I immediately started my own tour guide business. “AlUla residents are still as welcoming as they've always been. When caravans arrived during pre-Islamic times, the people gave them what they needed, from dates to eat, to somewhere to rest. But the people were smart in that they adapted their offering to appeal to those travelling through. Around 1,000 years ago, for instance, AlUla became famous for making swords and selling horses to travellers from Egypt and Spain. It makes us wonder what modern visitors need today. “The area has been very respectfully prepared for tourists, with all the plans discussed in consultation with the community. The local people want their stories to be heard and we are excited that AlUla is returning to its roots as a crossroads for cultural exchange.” FACETS OF ALULA Ahmed highlights four more reasons why AlUla will capture your imagination… ALULA IS A DREAM FOR TRAVELLERS “Personally, I love the sense of stillness you experience here. But AlUla answers many tourist needs, including outdoor adventure, wellness, heritage and entertainment. 8 experiencealula.com

Culture & traditions 9


Stargazing Experience

33

Sharing the date harvest

40

k bu Ta

each other. Our neighbours are like family

Madakhil Camp

and our homes are like hotels. Relatives

Dancing Rock

Rainbow Rock

rd wa To

“We’re a small community so we all know

18

19

21

AlGharameel

Adventure Trail

YOU’LL LOVE THE COMMUNITY VIBE

32

HIJRAT NOURA

375

HEGRA, UNESCO Heritage Site

of the families living here usually come for their summer holidays, so there are house. It’s crowded, but we thrive on it.”

YOU FOR HOURS ask if the visitors can come to their farm

39

and have lunch or dinner with them.

ASHAR

the invitations keep flowing.”

24

WE RESPECT THE NATURAL WORLD

Ashar Valley 26

Jabal AlAhmar P3

17

Qasr As Sanea

RV Park

25

P2

Face Rock

Area of Prehistoric Burial Mounds Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza

375

70

Toward Ha'il

See and Do

14

Harrat Uwayrid

375

11

Elephant Rock Jabal Ikmah

23

AlUla Fresh Farm

Zipline

22

An aerial view of date palms at AlUla Oasis

AlMakher

10

34 36 Shaden

Barzan

41 42

Heritage and Art gift shop

43

Wadi Of Hospitality 9 AlUla Old Town

12

Jar Rock

AL MU’TADIL

AL FURSAN VILLAGE

4

Winter Park

certain songs we like to sing to them.”

Resort

Shaden RV Park

5 Dadan

13

Hand Rock

35

31 Bike Trail

Sahary AlUla Resort

29

Horse Trail

6

ALMADAKEL

27 AlUla

375

Tantora Sundial

7

28

8

Musa Bin Nusayr Castle

Heritage

Summer Farms

1 Hijaz Railway

Rawis are a special class of tour guide. The term ‘rawi’ translates to ‘storyteller’, and each has a specialist knowledge of the heritage sites, as well as their own family history to share. The term

2 Hegra 3 Hegra Fort 4 Jabal Ikmah

ALULA

375

5 Dadan

Bike Park & Dune Buggies

7 Tantura Sundial

Winter Park

23

Zipline

24

Art Park

25

Maraya

26

Ashar Valley

27

AlUla Oasis

28

Summer Farms

29

Horse Trail

30

Bike Park & Dunes Buggies

31

Bike Trail

32

Stargazing Experience

33

Adventure Trail

34

Shaden Resort

35

Sahary AlUla Resort

36

Shaden RV Park

37

Ashar Valley Resort

38

Ashar RV Park

39

Habitas AlUla

40

Madakhil Camp

Eateries & Essentials

30

6 AlUla Old Town

22

Accommodation

Oasis

THE ORIGINS OF THE RAWI

P4

ort Towards Airp

‘We respect palm trees because they are a source of life and they are useful in so many ways’

tree replied, “then I will die”. It reminds visit your palm tree. There are even

Tomb of Malkiyun The Diviner

Ashar Valley Resort

are useful in so many ways. There’s

us to never be absent – to always

375

Hegra

Jabal AlBanat

Hegra Wells Ancient City

37

they are a source of life and they

back, “then I won’t visit you” and the

Jabal AlKhuraymat

38 Ashar

Maraya

of us. We respect palm trees because

that it wouldn’t die, so the man shot

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Finger Rocks 15

Art Park

“The palm tree is like the mother of all

anymore. The palm tree responded

2

Habitas AlUla

Even though we have the itineraries,

in anger that he wouldn’t water it

(The Diwan & The Siq)

Entrance

The Siq & The Diwan

“When I am doing my tours, the locals

a splinter from a palm tree and said

Jabal Ithlib

1 Northern Gate

Hijaz Railway & Visitor Center 3 Hegra Fort

SHARAAN NATURE RESERVE

P1

Jabal AlMahjar

SHALLAL

THE LOCALS WILL ENTERTAIN

an old story about a man who got

20

From Northern Gate (Hijaz Railway)

usually three or four families living in one

8 Musa Bin Nusayr Castle

Nature

41

AlMakher

42

Barzan

43

Heritage and Art gift shop

Parking Areas P1

Jabal Ithlib

comes from a time when skilled

10 Wadi Of Hospitality

P2

Jabal AlBanat

storytellers in the community

11 Elephant Rock

P3

Jabal AlAhmar

12 Jar Rock

P4

Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza

of entertaining people around the campfire, in the days before television. The rawis were highly regarded and celebrated for their abilities to recite much-loved

13 Hand Rock 14 Harrat Uwayrid 15 Finger Rocks

QURH

16 The Siq & The Diwan 17 Face Rock 328

19 Rainbow Rock 20

Sharaan Nature Reserve

audience with their gripping tales.

21

AlGharameel

Toilets

Food Trucks

Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic Airport

375

18 Dancing Rock

poems and to captivate the

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375

Visitor Center

Landmarks

375

Highway Number

Toward Red S ea

would have the informal role

9 AlUla Fresh Farm

To w a

rd

K

ha

yb

a

r

Culture & traditions 11


Introduction

c. 300 million years ago AUSTRALIA

LAND OF LEGEND

c. 252 million years ago PALAEOZOIC • Trilobites in sandstone 200,000 BCE or earlier PALAEOLITHIC • Handaxe among earliest discovered in Arabia c. 5200 BCE NEOLITHIC • Ritual deposits of animal skulls, horns and teeth

Saudi Arabia’s hidden gem has been a magnet for intrepid travellers for millennia and now it’s your turn to uncover the stories that shaped this wonder of the world

O

nce upon a time, AlUla was a thriving hub of

c. 5000-2000 BCE LATE PREHISTORY • Monumental burials and seasonal campsites 2550 BCE EGYPT

Hot air balloons soar above Hegra Fort

activity. Located in the northwest of the Kingdom

of Saudi Arabia, approximately 1,000km from Riyadh, the ancient city has been a beacon of cultural

c. 100 BCE-106 CE JORDAN

exchange for thousands of years, due to its role as a crossroads along the incense trading route and the pilgrimage route to Makkah. All those who passed through – including 14th

70-80 CE ITALY

century Arab traveller Ibn Battuta – are thought to have received a warm welcome by settlers through the ages

the tale of all those who once called it

is much to see and do, at whatever

who thrived on the natural bounty of

home. And with recent archaeological

pace you desire.

the oasis.

discoveries charting more than

Today, AlUla is a fascinating immersion into Saudi Arabia’s rich culture and deep-rooted history.

New guided treks and immersive

200,000 years of human history in

tours are on offer, as well as

AlUla, there’s a lot to learn.

action-packed activities at the new

Feel the energy at Saudi Arabia’s

Adventure Canyon. Accommodation

Open to visitors all year round from

first UNESCO World Heritage Site,

is available to suit all types of

October 2020, travellers in search

Hegra, which has more than 100

travellers, from luxury desert

of a meaningful experience will be

intricately carved tomb façades to

resorts to self-catering recreational

rewarded with a coveted glimpse of

discover. Weave your way through

vehicles (RVs) that offer a glamping

the culture, heritage and mysticism

the labyrinthine streets of the

style experience.

of the Arabian Peninsula and the

abandoned AlUla Old Town, examine

early civilisations that lived there.

centuries-old rock inscriptions at

made visitor-ready with conservation

The region is also significant to the

Jabal Ikmah, and explore the remains

in mind. The sensitive development

story of Islam – it is believed that the

of the ancient kingdom of Dadan.

of the area is part of Saudi Arabia’s

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) paid

After exploring the active

Rest assured that AlUla has been

Vision 2030, to diversify the

several visits to Wadi Al-Qura (the

excavation sites and rich culture and

economy and open up the country to

Valley of the Villages located at the

heritage, there are many other ways

international tourism, aided by the

heart of the oasis).

to enjoy AlUla. With its extraordinary

launch of the Saudi eVisa programme

natural landscapes – a lush oasis

in September 2019.

The largely untouched landscape, with its imposing landmarks carved

filled with sheltering palm groves,

by nature and its settlers, is a lesson

mind-blowing lookout points for

heritage, art, nature and adventure

in human resilience and endeavour.

stargazing, valleys, canyons, work-

are intertwined, AlUla offers a unique

Its four main heritage sites – Hegra

of-art rock formations and farms

travel experience that expands

and the Hijaz Railway, AlUla Old

offering dates, mangoes, mint, basil

the mind – and it’s all just waiting to

Town, Dadan, and Jabal Ikmah – tell

and a variety of citrus fruits – there

be discovered.

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c. 900-100 BCE ANCIENT NORTH ARABIAN KINGDOMS • Multiple scripts and languages inscribed in stone • Prosperity from incense trade • Water management and cultivation in the AlUla Valley, developing the oasis

c. 100 BCE-106 CE NABATAEAN KINGDOM • Spectacular carved tombs • Prosperity from incense trade • Oasis development on the Hegra Plain 106 CE-c. 400 CE ROMAN PRESENCE • Roman camp at Hegra • Southernmost inland limit of the Roman Empire c. 400-622 CE PRE-ISLAMIC

1000 CE RAPA NUI

1648 CE INDIA

1889 CE FRANCE

c. 622-1200 CE EARLY ISLAMIC • Prosperity from trade and pilgrimage to Makkah • Largest city after Makkah in the 10th century c. 1200-present LATER ISLAMIC • AlUla Old Town is the cultural heart of AlUla from c. 1200 until the 1980s

1870-1980 CE MODERN TIMES • Western explorers discover and document AlUla • Hijaz Railway built to modernise pilgrim travel

An extraordinary place where

Introduction 13


Discover AlUla

FAST FACTS Count the ways in which AlUla will capture your imagination

200,000

YEARS OF HUMAN HISTORY TO TRACE

JOURNEY THROUGH TIME Trace over 200,000 years of human history at this crossroads on ancient incense trading and pilgrimage routes, where civilisations thrived to leave a fascinating collection of wonders as their legacy Hegra

900

Traditional buildings to explore at AlUla Old Town

HISTORIC SITES

Delve into the stories of AlUla’s most significant heritage sites in this open-air, living museum. Marvel at the sandstone rock masterpieces, which have been sculpted by nature and its skilled settlers over thousands of years.

2.3 million

Date palm trees delivering a bumper harvest

THE SILENT CITY Hegra is Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site (it was inscribed onto the list in 2008) and a thriving Nabataean city from the middle of the 1st century BCE until around the 2nd century CE. Research also suggests that,

1st UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia: Hegra

after 106 CE, it was likely to have been the most southerly outpost of the Roman Empire in Arabia. A

111

fascinating collection of more than

well-preserved monumental tombs to discover

100 monumental decorated tombs carved into the colossal sandstone outcrops that surround the ancient city, are impressively well preserved. Hegra

29 VARIETIES OF FRAGRANT CITRUS FRUITS GROWING ON THE FARMS

mirrors adorn the concert and entertainment venue Maraya 10,000 SQM of

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Discover 15


Hijaz Railway

‘A fascinating collection of more than 100 tombs tell the tale of the ancient people and culture of AlUla’ They tell the tale of the ancient people and culture of AlUla, with the carefully carved inscriptions on many, helping to piece together the puzzle of those buried within. You can learn about the destination’s roots as an historic hub for travel and trade at the Hijaz Railway experience. Running through AlUla, the Hijaz Railway began construction from 1900 and stretches to Medina and Damascus, modernising the way that pilgrims travelled. Due to the outbreak of World War I, its full route, which would have extended all the way to the Holy City of Makkah, was never completed. Today, the station at Hegra houses an original locomotive. At the southern end of the station is Hegra Fort, which was built in the 18th century CE and later restored. Stroll around the double water tower and renovated reservoir that used to nourish a small garden of pomegranate trees and date palms and cast your mind back to a time when pilgrims would arrive in search of food and shelter. 16 experiencealula.com

Discover 17


NABATAEAN HORIZON Pause for reflection at Maraya. This award-winning, Guinness-WorldRecord-setting architectural marvel, designed by Italian architects Gio Forma, is covered in great swathes of mirrors – 9,740sqm to be exact – that reflect the surrounding desert landscape. The cube-shaped building, with its 26-metre-high theatre, is a 600-seat concert and entertainment venue where acclaimed artists including

WHISPERING CANYONS

Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Richie and Yanni

Once a revered site on the ancient

have performed.

trade routes, Jabal Ikmah is home to over 500 inscriptions, both carved and in relief (raised), mostly dating to the Dadanite and Lihyanite Kingdoms of the 1st millennium BCE. A veritable open-air library, the hundreds of carvings that adorn the cliff faces and rocks depict the site’s rich history of pilgrimages, cultural rituals and more. Take your time studying the inscriptions as well as petroglyphs (rock art) depicting humans, musical instruments and animals, which offer an insight into the everyday lives of the people who lived there, as well as those who travelled through.

‘Trace the footsteps of traders and pilgrims of a bygone era who enjoyed a bountiful place to rest at AlUla Oasis’ ANCIENT ARABIAN KINGDOMS The ancient city of Dadan is considered to have been one of

AlUla Oasis

the most developed 1st millennium BCE cities in the Arabian Peninsula. Home to two kingdoms dating to the late 9th and early 8th century BCE

HISTORICAL CROSSROADS

mudbrick houses and town squares,

(Kingdom of Dadan) and the 5th to

You can trace the footsteps of traders

the walled AlUla Old Town was once

the 2nd century BCE (Kingdom of

and pilgrims of a bygone era who

a hub of activity. Located in the

shines a light on AlUla’s agricultural

Lihyan), this must-see heritage site

enjoyed a bountiful place to rest,

narrowest part of the AlUla valley, it

clout. Although the crops that are

is an architectural feat of its time.

recuperate and socialise at AlUla

was established in the 12th century CE

grown there have evolved over time,

Make your way towards the tombs

Oasis. Nestled within Wadi AlQura

and continuously inhabited through

date palms continue to dominate.

that have been cut into the red-

(Valley of Villages), this lush haven is

to the 20th century CE, with the last

Evidence of the fruit has been

rock cliff faces east of the city and

awash with date palms, citrus trees

wave of settlers moving on in the

discovered in funerary remains

see if you can spy the seated lion

and herbs such as basil and mint,

1980s. It is being unveiled to visitors

at Hegra suggesting that, to the

sculptures. It’s thought that these

which thrive on the natural spring

for the first time in December 2020,

Nabataeans, dates represented a

ferocious protectors mark the resting

water that surrounds them.

complete with must-have experiences

symbolic link between the living and

that will immerse you in the everyday

the dead.

places of elite members of society. 18 experiencealula.com

With its maze of winding alleyways,

lives and customs of the villagers. The summer farm, AlWadi Farm,

Discover 19


The Arch

RISE UP Take in the striking scenery that the settlers and visitors to AlUla have enjoyed for millennia, by getting an up-close look at the dramatic rock formations that dot the desert landscape. One of AlUla’s most recognisable, The Arch (also known as Rainbow Rock), is well worth the 90-minute drive from the centre of the city. Its bridge-shaped structure, which resembles a rainbow flanked by two clouds, is a rare sight indeed. Similarly, Elephant Rock (also known as Jabal AlFil) has captured the imagination of keen photographers the world over. As the name suggests, this red sandstone marvel is shaped like an elephant with a distinctive ‘trunk’ and ‘body’ – the result of millions of years of wind and water erosion. It’s a popular camping spot, especially during festivals when the structure is bathed in light and campers can take the chance to ride a horse or camel, keep warm by the firepits, and dine on delights from the pop-up eateries. There’s also Al Gharameel, which has dark thin pillars of stone stretching up to the sky. Dancing Rocks is so-called due to its two large pillars that appear as if they are swaying in unison, while Face Rock resembles the profile of a human head. THE LOOKOUT AlUla is blessed with numerous lookout points that offer an elevated view of the epic landscape. Scale the black lava stone terrain of Harrat Uwayrid and you’ll be rewarded with views over Dadan, AlUla Old Town, Musa bin Nusayr Castle and AlUla Oasis. Arrive before sundown to soak up the sights and sounds of the golden hour, when the sky’s orange glow adds a magical touch to the scene.

Get your tourist visa Visiting from abroad? You can apply for a tourist visa online at visa.visitsaudi.com. This one-year, multiple entry visa allows you to spend up to 90 days in the country as a visitor. Currently, the eVisa is available to tourists from 49 countries. If your country is not eligible, contact your nearest Saudi Arabia Embassy.

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Discover 21


Face Rock

HOW TO GET THERE

a hyper luxury experience. Check at the

By car

Visitor Centres or call the information

AlUla is around three-and-a-half

hotline +920025003 for further details.

hours’ drive from both Medina (to the south) and Tabuk (north).

By air

Alternatively, you can roll your visit

The nearest airport is Prince Abdul

into a road trip by setting off from

Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic

Jeddah (approximately 7½ hours) or

Airport (ULH), which is located around

Riyadh (10 hours). AlUla’s new taxi

35 kilometres southeast of AlUla. You

service offers clean and comfortable

can fly in with Saudia (saudia.com) via

transport from the airport to your

Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam. Direct

accommodation and around. If you’re

flights from wider destinations, such as

arriving from overseas, there are lots

Dubai, are planned for the near future.

of places to hire a car, including at AlUla Guides (+966 553338228) and Yelo (+966 559502782). Saudi Arabia’s well-connected road network makes it easy to find your way from A to B – just be sure to bring your driving licence. Alternatively, you can hire a driver, book a taxi from Uber or Careem, or book a limo service for

‘Dramatic rock formations dot the desert landscape’

Dancing Rocks

WHEN TO GO There is plenty to see and do in AlUla all year round. Temperatures range from 10-25°C during the winter months (from October to April). AlUla Season, which normally takes place from December to March every year, brings an exciting line-up of cultural, sporting and art events to enjoy. Summer temperatures hover around 30-40°C. During the peak, in July and August, the date harvest lures foodies eager to be among the first to taste the prized fruits.

22 experiencealula.com

Discover 23


Mikhail Tenazas at the Airstream RV Resort in Ashar

4

Wish list

21 MUSTHAVE EXPERIENCES

SEE THE SUN RISE OVER THE CANYONS

“Waking up early to watch the sun rise over AlUla’s majestic rock formations will definitely go down as one of my favourite travel memories,” says Mikhail Tenazas, content creator and travel photographer (see @TheTravelPro, @WeLiveToExplore and @ TheGlobeWanderer). “The view from the Airstream RV camp in the Ashar Valley, where I stayed,

Make the most of your time in AlUla by seeking out these memorable moments

1

During the Hot Air Balloon Festival, take to the skies at dawn and glide peacefully above UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra. You’ll be able to spot wells and burial grounds hidden on top of the sandy outcrops that are only visible from above. Hot Air Balloon Festival, AlUla

is incredible. AlUla has such a fascinating history and a very rich heritage that has been wonderfully preserved and still

2

Transport yourself back in time at AlUla Oasis. Make your way through the palm groves on camelback and sample the varieties of zingy citrus fruits, such as the Jaffa orange, along the way.

largely untouched by the outside world. Travelling here is like going back in time.”

3

Catch the magical moment when the sunlight illuminates the path of The Siq at Jabal Ithlib, the Holy Mountain at Hegra. The perfect time for this falls roughly between 9.30am and 11am. There’s a 30-minute window when the rays shine through.

24 experiencealula.com

Wish list 25


Laura Alho at Rainbow Rock

5

Visit the Dancing Rocks in the Raggasat Valley, so-called because these rocks are sculpted by nature and appear as if they are dancing together. The valley is a top spot for hiking and dune buggying.

6

Head to Al Gharameel in the evening and get comfortable on a traditional carpet so you can gaze up at the twinkling stars. Listen to tales of the past from the expert stargazer and feel connected to the universe.

7

Take time out to mingle with the friendly locals at Winter Park over a cup of freshly brewed Arabic coffee.

8

Get back in touch with the natural world by going horse trekking through the breathtaking AlWadi area. (Bookable, see page 32).

9

FIND GEMS AT THE END OF THE RAINBOW “Search for treasure at the end of Rainbow Rock, a sandstone arch that’s a 90-minute

drive north of AlUla,” says Laura Alho, a Finnish adventure traveller who has lived in Saudi Arabia for 12 years (see blueabaya.com and @Blueabaya). “Here, you can find semi-precious desert diamonds (quartz) scattered on the ground, as well as embedded in the rock. They come in a variety of colours and are beautiful to look at. Hold the translucent ones up to the sky so the sunlight shines through them, bringing their natural hues to life. There are some local jewellery makers who use these and other semi-precious stones in their creations, which are sold at the marketplace in AlUla Old Town. Rainbow Rock isn’t the only place to find them, but the number there, as well as the quality and size of them, is exceptional.”

26 experiencealula.com

Wish list 27


Abdulaziz Albalawi

10

Make your way to Elephant Rock in time to see the sun rise, when sunrays and shadows dance on the rock faces.

11

Catch the afternoon sunrays at Maraya. This giant mirrored reflector provides the perfect lighting for your photoshoot of Ashar Valley.

Habitas AlUla

12

Heed nature’s wake-up call by watching the sunrise from your terrace while staying at one of luxury deserts resorts. (Turn to page 52 to see our accommodation options).

13

Abdullah AlJumah

28 experiencealula.com

ENJOY THE TRANQUILLITY OF THE DESERT "Lose yourself in the natural maze of the rocky mountains of AlUla," says Abdullah AlJumah, travel writer and influencer (see @ aaljumah). “With the high altitude and intense proximity, it feels like Manhattan made by nature. But here you will only experience the tranquillity of the desert, and echoes of the calls of eagles roaming the clear sky.”

14

UNPLUG IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS

“Mountain climbing is my favourite thing to do in AlUla," says Abdulaziz Albalawi, a photographer born and raised in AlUla (@Aziz.alula). “In a world flooded by screens, sometimes just taking the time to unplug and go outside can do wonders.” If you want to go hiking in the mountains, please stay safe by requesting the services of a local, qualified expert to accompany you.

Wish list 29


Sam Kølder at Jabal Ikmah

15

Find the perfect spot to sit and gaze at the Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza at Hegra. Being beside this stunning tomb, which is a favourite among photographers, is a humbling experience.

Face Rock

Harrat Uwayrid

18

Get the perfect Instagram shot by asking your rawi to take you to their favourite selfie spots. Harrat Uwayrid, and the hidden canyons and rock formations, are the ideal backdrop for enchanting sunset photos.

19

16

Watch artisans making crafts with palm fronds at the Handicrafts Pavilion in AlUla Old Town.

17

Feel a rush of adrenaline, and the wind in your hair, by zooming along the zipline at Harrat Uwayrid. (Bookable, see page 32).

20

For something truly memorable, take to the clear blue sky in a vintage aircraft, flying high above AlUla for a breathtaking view of this open-air living museum.

Go hunting for rock art in Ashar during the evening, lighting the way with a lamp in hand. A rawi can guide you, imparting their wisdom of how ancient civilisations carved their messages into the sandstone. SHARE YOUR STORIES

21

EXPLORE WITH CHILD-LIKE CURIOSITY “Walk through the narrow gorges in the

rock clusters of Jabal Ikmah and imagine a time when humans roamed the land without the modern day technology we are all so used to today,” says

We’d love to hear about your

Sam Kølder, a creative director and filmmaker

best experiences in AlUla. Tell

@samkolder. “Our guide jokingly said that the etchings

us about them via our social

on the walls are like Twitter, but thousands of years ago.

channels @experiencealula

It was a way to communicate where to find water, tell stories and share art. What a way to live.”

Please note that while the majority of these experiences are available now, there are a number that are being unveiled over the coming months – turn to the What to Do section on page 32 for further information. 30 experiencealula.com

Wish list 31


What to do

READY, SET, EXPLORE Unlock the secrets of this open-air museum, where an exciting collection of immersive experiences and activities bring its stories to life – simply book online at experiencealula.com

T

Let’s begin

also a dedicated performance

passageway through the mountains.

inside the tombs. It’s an intimate

First up is the Hijaz Railway

area where actors recreate a

Continue your journey of discovery

experience, with only five riders

experience, which will deepen

traditional wedding ceremony,

at Jabal AlAhmar. There, a

at a time. You’ll be accompanied

your understanding of AlUla as

inviting you to take part in treasured

necklace made of date stones

by a professional photographer

a prominent hub for travel and

rituals, such as being adorned

was discovered in a tomb that

who will snap some pictures of you

exploration. The historic station

with henna art. (The activities

was excavated between 2008

against the backdrop of captivating

houses an original locomotive,

are being phased in. Please visit

and 2014, revealing this and other

sandstone rock. There’s no need

and you can pick up a headset

experiencealula.com for updates.)

evidence of Nabataean burial

to pre-book this experience – it’s

items and practices. You can

operated on a first-come, first-

for an immersive audio guide (available by end of December

Hone your knowledge of the

investigate the significance of

served basis and takes around

2020) that will transport you to a

inner workings of Nabataean

date jewellery, and have a go at

20-30 minutes. You can also explore

time when merchants and pilgrims

society, from how they built their

making your very own necklace, by

on foot, if you prefer. Make sure you

traversed the land. Learn how

settlements to the ways in which

joining in the hands-on workshop.

factor in enough time to watch the

the construction of the railway,

they practiced their religion, at

which began in 1900, helped to

Jabal Ithlib, a natural mountain

unique opportunity to spell

(Qasr AlSania), which spotlights the

modernise the way that pilgrims

outcrop to the east of Hegra. Take

your name from the Nabataean

Nabataean society and ways of life.

travelled. The railway is currently

a peek inside The Diwan, a rock-cut

alphabet. Watch as the calligrapher

Take the chance to interact with the

on the Tentative List for UNESCO

chamber that was once a venue

writes your name in beautiful

actors, as the audience becomes part

World Heritage Site recognition.

for sumptuous banquets, and a

script before presenting it to

of the narrative. With impressive sets,

meeting room for the leaders of

you as a framed memento.

special effects, and some surprises

You will also be afforded the

play, Tomb of Malkiyun the Diviner

he Royal Commission for

in November, with the remainder

AlUla is excited to reopen

to follow in December. Before you

The AlFegeer Mud Houses offer

the city. Use the Experience AlUla

Explore Jabal AlBanat, one of the

thrown in for good measure, this

three of the main heritage

visit, please see the latest details

a rare glimpse of the Bedouin

app to see the hall transformed

largest clusters of tombs, exactly

20-30 minute play is a must-see.

sites – Hegra, Dadan and

on what to expect and associated

lifestyle. The site is home to farms

to its former glory, complete with

as the Bedouins did – atop a camel.

The details:

prices at experiencealula.com.

built after 1940, as well as two

guests enjoying the feast. You’ll also

Those long camel legs will raise

• There are regular bus and taxi

prominent castles: Sheikh Shihab

find The Siq here, a natural narrow

you to the perfect height to peek

services to Hegra. In addition,

Jabal Ikmah – to visitors from 30 October 2020. On arrival in AlUla, you will be welcomed at a newly

THE HEGRA EXPERIENCE

enhanced airport, driven around

Hegra is the largest conserved

and Sheikh Sultan Castle (built in

in clean, comfortable new taxis,

site of the Nabataean civilisation

1905), which enjoys an elevated

and have access to air-conditioned

south of Petra in Jordan, and

position atop a mountain. There are

transport to take you between the

Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World

three tented areas offering hands-

key sites and around Hegra. Rawis

Heritage Site. Home to more than

on activities designed to stimulate

(Arabic and English storytellers)

100 tombs carved from giant rock

all the senses. Make handicrafts

are waiting to accompany you

formations, the ancient settlement

under the guidance of local women,

on your journey of discovery and

begs discovery. Take an up-close

learn the steps to traditional dances,

deepen your appreciation of these

look at the rock inscriptions, which

and try your hand at milking a

incredible sites. Alternatively,

reveal where elite members of

camel. Members of the Beidha

you can explore at your own

society, such as healers, military

community will welcome you with

pace by using the Experience

figures and local leaders were laid to

hearty homemade dishes, and wise

AlUla app – see QR code below.

rest. From the instantly recognisable

elders will tell their stories. There’s

Please note that the activations

Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza, which

and immersive experiences at

is cut into a single large outcrop,

the heritage sites, as detailed in

to the concentrated collection of

this guide, will be seasonal from

tombs at Jabal AlKhuraymat and

November 2020. This includes the

the prehistoric burial mounds at

live re-enactments, handicrafts'

Tomb of Malkiyun the Diviner, it’s

workshops, archaeological digs,

time to unpack the history of this

souqs and more. A selection of the

significant archaeological site.

adventure activities will be available

There is so much to discover…

Castle (constructed around 1880) Hegra tombs

WHAT’S ON AT HEGRA? Daytime: Hijaz Railway, AlFegeer Mud Houses, Jabal Ithlib, Jabal AlBanat, Jabal AlAhmar, Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza, the well, the Handicrafts Pavilion and the viewing point at the centre of Hegra. Evening: Hijaz Railway and

KEY Duration Opening hours How much Winter: October to March Summer: April to September 32 experiencealula.com

AlFegeer Mud Houses. You can also see the shows at The Diwan, as well as Jabal AlBanat and Jabal AlKhuraymat (see evening experiences). The Hegra evening Download our location specific interactive app

experiences are being phased in over the coming months.

The Siq

What to do 33


A GRIPPING TALE

you can park free of charge at the main entrance gate, from where a

GETTING AROUND

Mashail Makki, who was born and raised

shuttle bus will take you to Hijaz

You can transport yourself

in AlUla, is the city’s first female tour guide.

Railway station, where you will

around Hegra thanks

She swapped her job as an English teacher

be met by a member of staff.

to the hop-on-hop-off

to follow her passion for sharing stories

• Rawis (Arabic and English

air-conditioned luxury

of her ancestors in 2017. Today, she runs

storytellers) are available at the main

coach that operates

heritage tours in Hegra, AlUla Old Town and

stop-off points to accompany you on

continuously on a circular

Dadan.

your journey of discovery. Alternatively,

route around the site. It

you can explore at your own pace by

leaves every 30 minutes,

story of Buthina, which is an Arabic take on

using the Experience AlUla app or

stopping at four key

the fairy-tale Rapunzel. As the myth goes,

the audio guides, available (in English

points, and is included

Buthina’s father AlHedri was a very rich man

and Arabic from December 2020).

in your ticket price. Once

and she was his only child. AlHedri

you’ve finished exploring,

built a small room for her in a house atop

simply catch the coach

the mountain.

Please allow approximately 2-4

“During my Hegra tour, I like to tell the

"One day, when AlHedri was travelling, a

hours for the complete Hegra

back to the Hijaz Railway

day experience, plus extra time

where you can grab a bite

young handsome man, Asana, passed by

to take in the evening shows.

to eat and a drink, and

the house and heard Buthina’s beautiful

(From December 2020).

browse the gift shop for

singing. He called out that he wanted to

keepsakes before you

come to her, so she let down her long hair

leave.

and he climbed up to her window. They fell

Daily from 9am-5pm. (Last entry is the 3-4.30pm slot). The Hegra evening experiences (phased in over the coming

Alternatively, you can

in love and soon Buthina discovered she was

months) will run from 8pm-11pm.

opt for a relaxing trot

expecting a baby. She sung a poem about

Day tour tickets (single entry) are

around all the major sites

her situation, which quickly spread across

SAR 97 for adults and SAR 48

in a horse-drawn carriage.

the town.

for children (aged 5-12) from 31

The carriages go from the

Oct 2020 to 31 Dec 2020.

Hijaz Railway to Tomb of

found out what had happened and killed

Lihyan son of Kuza and

them both. I then point to a tomb that

Jabal AlBanat during

has what appears to be a bloodstain on it.

the day. Pre-booking not

However, as I later reveal, it’s actually just a

required. Operated on a

chemical reaction on the stone. People are

for children. SAR 20 for AlUla

first-come, first-served

transfixed by this story and it reminds me of

residents all year round. Those

basis.

my grandparents who used to tell it to me

Daily from 8am to noon, 4pm-6pm and 7pm-11pm. SAR 195 and SAR 97 for children. SAR 97 for adults and SAR 48

aged 4 and under go free.

Jabal Ikmah

"When her father returned, he immediately

when I was a little girl.”

ANCIENT ARABIAN KINGDOMS

on the north side of Dadan. (This

Dadan and Jabal Ikmah

winter season, at various times).

Explore the ruins of the ancient

activity is available daily during the Next, you can move on to Jabal

Kingdom of Dadan, one of the most

Ikmah to examine the hundreds of

developed 1st millennium BCE cities

inscriptions and writings on the cliffs

in the Arabian Peninsula. Head to the

and rock faces that date mainly to

east of the city to see more than a

the Dadanite and Lihyanite periods.

dozen tombs cut into the red-rock cliff

A natural outcrop at Hegra

34 experiencealula.com

faces, including the famous Lion Tombs

The details:

marked by seated lion sculptures.

• Transfers available from the

Archaeologists continue to discover

south to the north of Dadan in a

exciting information about Dadan – it’s

vintage Jeep. The journey takes

still a live excavation site. You can find

approximately 6 minutes.

out more about it by taking part in

• You can be accompanied by

the hands-on workshop, Archaeology

a rawi who will impart their

for Everyone (40 minutes), which

knowledge of the area.

is a great family activity. You’ll be

• Complimentary refreshments

given your very own archaeology

and snacks are available. Plus,

kit and you can use the tools to dig

there is a shop selling keepsakes,

for artefacts in the dedicated area

including local products.

THE FOUR-IN-ONE PASS You can access the four main heritage sites – Hegra, AlUla Old Town, Dadan and Jabal Ikmah – with the AlUla Access Pass. For entry from 1 Jan 2021. SAR 375 for adults and SAR 187 for children (aged 5-12). 187 for adults and SAR 93 for children. Those aged 4 and under go free. (Based upon single entry. Valid for 5 days from first entry).

What to do 35


• Parking is available at both sites

shops and five town squares, it was

• Access to the site is via drop off

free of charge, but spaces are

continuously inhabited from the 12th

only, with parking available nearby.

limited. We advise you to use the

through to the 20th century CE.

shuttle services between the sites. Approximately 1 hour. Daily from 9am-5pm. (Last entry is the 3-4pm slot). Daily from 8am to noon and 4pm-6pm. Day tour tickets (single entry) are SAR 60 for adults and SAR 30 for children (aged 5-12) from 31 Oct 2020 to 31 Dec 2020. From 2021: SAR 120 and SAR 60 for children.

Investigate this important heritage site by watching the live

Allow approximately 3-4 hours to explore. Daily from 9am-5pm. (Last entry

performances that bring its history to

is the 3-4.30pm slot). The night

life. You’ll be welcomed by a rawi who

experience will be from 8pm-11 pm.

will take you on a journey through the town. Stop at Tantora Plaza, where the townspeople used the sundial to

tell the time and track the seasons. Scale AlUla Castle for panoramic views of AlUla and continue on to the busy bazaar, where actors recreate

Daily from 8am to noon, 4pm-6pm and 7pm-11pm. SAR 67 and SAR 33 for children (aged 5-12) from 15 Dec 2020 to 31 Dec 2020. From 2021:

135 for

adults and SAR 67 for children. SAR 67 for adults and SAR 33

scenes from the town’s heyday, such

for children. SAR 10 for AlUla

as traders arriving in caravans to

residents all year round. Those

30 for children. SAR 10 for AlUla

sell their wares, and children playing

aged 4 and under go free.

residents all year round. Those

traditional games in the streets. Head

aged 4 and under go free.

to the Handicrafts Pavilion to watch

TRANSPORT BETWEEN

artisans making crafts with palm

THE HERITAGE SITES

fronds, and browse the shops for

Visitor transfers operate

keepsakes such as spices and dates.

regularly between the four

SAR 60 for adults and SAR

ALULA OLD TOWN Open to visitors for the very first

main heritage sites: Hegra,

time from 22 December 2020, AlUla Old Town is where pilgrims,

The details:

Dadan, Jabal Ikmah and

travellers and permanent settlers

• A rawi can accompany you on a

AlUla Old Town. In addition,

congregated through the ages. Once

walking tour, although access is

there are transport solutions

home to almost 900 houses, 400

limited until end of March 2021.

available for disabled people.

An evening show at Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza

EVENING EXPERIENCES Best enjoyed under a blanket of stars, these curated experiences are available on selected dates during the winter season… Illuminating the tombs at Jabal AlKhuraymat The three-dimensional show at Jabal AlKhuraymat, in Hegra, draws upon

The cycling trail Follow the pack leader on a leisurely bicycle ride through the farms, where an abundance of date palms, citrus trees and herbs grow. Soak up the view of the surrounding mountains as the scent of Jaffa orange fills the air. Each group consists of up to 20 riders. 1 hour (guided). SAR 120 per person (SAR 69 for AlUla residents) from 15 Nov 2020. Not suitable for those aged 12 and under.

video and sound effects to offer a quick history lesson on how the Nabataeans built their tombs. The show, projected onto three tomb façades, illustrates how the tombs were carved and who owned them. 5-6 minutes. Included in the entry price to Hegra. For further details of show times and prices, please visit experiencealula.com.

HIT THE TRAILS Set off with an adventure guide to explore these newly opened hiking trails. They are available five days a week (see AlUla Old Town

experiencealula.com for details), from 8am to 5pm, until end of March 2021.

36 experiencealula.com

Fatbiking in the desert

What to do 37


Robert Polidori

The Horse Trail

Face Rock

AlUla Oasis

‘Visit the monoliths at sunrise or sunset for a magical experience'

Saddle up for this family-friendly guided trek through the stunning AlUla desert landscapes and lush oasis. Up to 20 people can join this trail at a time. 1-2 hours (guided). SAR 179 per person (SAR 90 for AlUla residents) from 15 Nov 2020. Not suitable for those aged 12 and under. The Adventure Trail

Sahary Resort, it’ll take just six minutes

Lace up your hiking shoes and hit

The trails are being phased in from

to reach Elephant Rock (Jabal Al-Fil).

the mountains for a half-day journey

November/December 2020, with

While you're there, hike up to Jar

led by an expert guide through the

additional trails available at a variety of

Rock (it’s opposite Elephant Rock) for

AlMadakheel landscapes, passing rock

locations across AlUla by the end

magnificent views of the valley through

art and unique flora and fauna. The trail

of 2020. Please visit experiencealula.com

the jar-shaped opening of the mountain.

accommodates up to 20 people.

for updates. Group sizes may be affected

Face Rock is inside Hegra, next to Jabal

while Covid-19 safety measures are

AlAhmar, while Ashar is home to Finger

in place.

Rock and Mushroom Rock, which is

3-4 hours (medium difficulty, guided). SAR 199 per person (SAR 99 for AlUla residents) from 30 Oct 2020. Not suitable for those aged 12 and under.

ROCK FORMATIONS

hidden inside a canyon. Venture further afield to see more

The famous rock formations dotted

distinctive rock formations, such as

The Oasis Trail

around AlUla await your arrival. There’s

Dancing Rocks in the Raggasat Valley

Weave your way self-guided through the

no need for any special arrangements

(45 minutes’ drive), Al Gharameel (60

bountiful AlUla Oasis, at your own pace.

aside from hailing a taxi or hiring a driver

minutes) and The Arch (90 minutes)

to take you there, but we recommend

– see the map on page 11. You’ll need

that you time your visits around sunrise

to go off-road to get to these so we

residents) from 15 Nov 2020. Those

and sunset for a magical experience.

recommend hiring an experienced driver

aged 4 and under go free.

If you set off from either Shaden or

with a four-wheel drive.

2 hours (self-guided). SAR 50 per person (SAR 19 for AlUla

Horse trekking

A PHOTOGRAPHER’S DREAM “Beauty is, of course, a personal subjective perception. But as far as I am concerned, this location is one of the most visually striking desert regions I have ever seen,” says Robert Polidori, photographer for AlUla, a luxury immersive book of photography and illustrations published by Assouline (assouline.com). “It is almost as if a god decided one day to paint and sculpt a landscape.”

38 experiencealula.com

What to do 39


Abdulaziz Albalawi. Al Gharameel

Gazelles are native to AlUla

SEE THE SUMMER FARM AlWadi Farm offers a fantastic insight

TASTE DELICIOUS

into the agricultural evolution of AlUla.

DATES

Successive civilisations continued to

“The region’s famous

improve on the ways that the crops

barni dates, which

were grown, with methods getting

comprise approximately

more sophisticated through the ages.

75 percent of the date

From the original native species, such as

fruit harvest each year,

acacia trees and shrubs, to the three-

are a must-try,” says

storey gardens comprising of date

Nayef Alharbi, a local

palms, citrus trees and herbs, there is a rich farming legacy to unravel. Get back to nature by picking fruit, planting seeds and feeding the animals in the stables. It’s easy to work up an appetite here,

Locally harvested dates

Approximately 1-2 hours. Opening in December 2020. From

which is why you’ll be pleased to know

10am-5pm on Sunday, Wednesday

that there is an on-site café serving

and Thursday and from 10am-8pm at

refreshing juices and light nibbles.

weekends (Friday and Saturday). Open

There’s also a great little shop selling

from December to March only.

fresh farm produce. Car parking

SAR 50 per person (SAR 19 for AlUla

is available, as well as bus and

residents) from 15 Dec 2020. Free for

shuttle services.

those aged 12 and under.

40 experiencealula.com

date farmer. “You should

STARGAZING

also sample the plump

AlUla is a fantastic place for stargazing. At Al Gharameel, you

but firm Mabroom date,

can enjoy a traditional Bedouin set-up, with an expert guide

which is extra sticky

on hand to tell you about the stars and constellations, and

with rich notes of toffee.

how they relate to AlUla’s culture and history.

Machrook dates will

Approximately 4-5 hours

satisfy the sweetest

From 8pm to 2am.

tooth with its sugary aftertaste. All varieties

SAR 220 per person (aged 5 and over) from 30 Oct 2020. Those aged 4 and under go free.

are highly nutritious.”

What to do 41


This 4km trail is akin to the central park of AlUla. It connects key heritage sites of AlUla Old Town, Dadan, Jabal Ikmah, the summer farms, villages and the

Nadim Karam, On Parade, installation view at Desert X AlUla

PHOTO LANCE GERBER, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND DESERT X ALULA

WADI OF HOSPITALITY

‘View the three permanent artworks on display in the Ashar Valley'

Dune buggying adventures

Nabataean settlements of Hegra, all wrapped up in one nature-filled journey. There’s a café at the start, as well as a place to hire a golf buggy, bicycle or

ART ATTRACTIONS

horse to get from one end to the other.

Art enthusiasts can brush up on

You can stop for a cup of fresh mint

their knowledge by viewing the three

tea in the café at the mint farm along

permanent artworks on display in

the way. There’s a lookout point and a

the Ashar Valley, near Habitas AlUla.

souvenir shop to browse, at the halfway

They were acquired from the Desert

mark.

X AlUla site-specific, contemporary art exhibition, which took place from

Not far from here lies another trail, the Orange Path. This fragrant road lined

31 January to 7 March 2020. The

with orange and citrus trees is a treat

works are: On Parade by Nadim

for the senses. The fruits of the grove

Karam; One Two Three Swing! by

can be enjoyed in lots of different ways,

Superflex and Falling Stones Garden

from the citrus market to the restaurant,

by Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim.

cooking and art. Speaking of which,

Yayoi Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirrored

there’s also a fluorescent orange

Room – Brilliance of the Souls’

monolith art piece, Specter by Sterling

installation at Maraya. Featuring

Ruby, to gaze at.

spheres of multicoloured lights suspended at different heights,

The vibrant arts and crafts hub, the Al Jadidah District, is just a stone’s

you'll feel as if you are surrounded

throw away. There, you can take part

by stars, planets and galaxies.

in workshops and classes at AlUla Girls’ School, catch a film at the rooftop

EVENTS

cinema, dine in the restaurant, and

AlUla has a packed year-round

view the public art on display at the art

calendar of events. In the past, the

plaza.

destination has hosted the culture festival Winter at Tantora; AlUla Hot

the 4km trail, on average, with extra

Air Balloon Festival; AlUla Desert

time to stop at the attractions along

Polo; the Custodian of the Two Holy

the way.

Mosques Endurance Cup; The Hegra

Open to the public around the clock from November 2020. Services and

Dune buggying

attractions will be phased in from

Embark on a high-octane, off-road

January 2021.

buggy drive across the dunes.

The zip line

1 hour. From 10am-5pm, five days a week (from Tuesday to Saturday). SAR 100 per person (SAR 60 for

One for thrill seekers, test your nerve by

AlUla residents) from 30 Oct 2020. Not

whizzing through the air on the zip line

suitable for those aged 12 and under.

at Harrat Mountain.

‘Embark on a highoctane, off-road buggy drive across the dunes' From 10am-8pm, five days a week (from Tuesday to Saturday). SAR 75 per person (SAR 30 for

Conference of Nobel Laureates; the Desert X AlUla site-responsive art exhibition; and many more. Visit experiencealula.com for the most up-to date information on upcoming events.

FESTIVALS The culture festival, AlUla Season, normally runs from January to March, bringing a fantastic line-up

1 hour.

Bike Park

AlUla residents) from 15 Nov 2020. Not

of events, performances and art

Open from 10am-5pm, five days a

Visit Adventure Canyon's new purpose

suitable for those aged 12 and under.

installations to the destination.

week (from Tuesday to Saturday). SAR 120 per person from 3 Dec 2020. Not suitable for those aged 12 and under. 42 experiencealula.com

built Bike Park. This low impact, high

Further to this, the event venue

energy adventure has bump and pump

Adventure experiences are being phased

Maraya is active throughout the

dirt tracks and is fun for all the family.

in from November 2020. Please visit

year, hosting music events, global

experiencealula.com for updates.

conferences and exhibitions.

1 hour.

Mohammed Ahmed Ibrahim, Falling Stones Garden, installation, view at Desert X AlUla

PHOTO BY LANCE GERBER, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND LAWRIE SHABIBI AND DESERT X ALULA

It takes approximately 1 hour to walk

THRILLING ADVENTURE

PHOTO LANCE GERBER, COURTESY THE ARTIST AND DESERT X ALULA

Another highlight is Japanese artist

pop-up perfumery and pavilion for

Entry is free.

Superflex, One Two Three Swing! Installation, view at Desert X AlUla

What to do 43


Dadan

Itineraries

ROUTES WE RATE Make sure your days are packed full of wonder thanks to our suggested itineraries that combine the very best experiences

‘Explore AlUla Old Town’s maze of 900 tiny houses and shops that date to the beginning of the Islamic Period’ settlement of the Nabataeans after Petra, this world wonder has over 100 well-preserved tombs, 94 of which have elaborate carved facades. Plus, there are a number of interactive experiences

AlUla Old Town

Peel back the layers of history that have shaped AlUla

MORNING Start your journey through time at Dadan, the ancient kingdom of the Lihyanite and Dadanite civilisations, which was developed in the 9th century BCE. An active archaeological site, you can learn about the treasures

and Lihyanite Kingdoms of the 1st millennium BCE.

Hegra to life. Make your final stop AlUla Old Town, which is less than a 30-minute drive away. Explore its maze of 900

LUNCH

tiny houses and shops that date to

Stop for a bite to eat at Winter Park.

the beginning of the Islamic Period.

Choose a hearty snack from one of the

Wander the shaded streets and see

food trucks and refuel while soaking up

how communities once lived. In the

the picturesque scenery.

evening, you can sit down to dinner in one of the two restaurants in AlUla

AFTERNOON

Old Town*. Each serves local cuisine,

Set off for UNESCO World Heritage

with entertainment and music for

Site Hegra. The second largest

an authentic ambience.

uncovered from excavations and scour the rock faces for the famous

Duration: Approximately 6 hours, plus time for lunch and dinner.

Lion Tombs (tombs marked by lion

Best for: All travellers – especially history and culture buffs.

sculptures, which indicate the resting

Good to know: Breakfast, coffee, snacks and gifts are available to buy at

place of elite members of society).

cafés and shops along the way. Entry to Dadan, Jabal Ikmah, Hegra and

Next, take the 10-minute drive to

AlUla Old Town is included in the AlUla Access Pass. You’ll need to make

Jabal Ikmah. Situated in a stunning

a reservation if you would like to dine at any of the restaurants in AlUla

desert canyon, this ‘open-air library’ has

Old Town.

an impressive collection of inscriptions, 44 experiencealula.com

*Restaurants will be coming soon

IMMERSED IN HERITAGE

to take part in that bring the story of mostly dating to the Dadanite

Itineraries 45


Dune buggying adventure

‘Feel a rush of adrenaline by taking part in the adventure activities’

THRILLS AND SPILLS

Early risers can seize the day by embarking on this thrill-a-minute escapade MORNING Lace up your sturdiest walking shoes

Enjoy an action-packed afternoon

and set off along the Madakhil Hiking

whooshing along the zip-line at

Trail. This picturesque trail, suitable for

Harrat Uwayrid, racing dune

intermediate hikers, takes you on an

buggies, and riding a fatbike

epic tour of the desert around narrow

through the desert.

canyons, gorges and cliffs. Once you’ve completed your hike,

Soften the pace by making the 45-minute journey to Shaden, where

make the 25-minute transfer to

you can reflect on the day’s activities

Winter Park for a quick pick-me-up in

at Elephant Rock. Saddle up for a

the form of a cup of hot coffee from

horseback ride, or jump into a Jeep

the food trucks. Energy levels restored,

for a speedy tour of the landscape.

embark on the 25-minute drive to

You’ll admire the raw beauty of this

Harrat Uwayrid.

distinctive monolith that has been naturally carved from weathering.

AFTERNOON

At sunset you’ll be rewarded by the

Feel a rush of adrenaline when taking

sight of glowing rays bursting through

part in the adventure activities.

the elephant’s ‘trunk’.

Duration: A full day of fun (approximately 8 hours), with some extra time to see the sunset. How much: Entry to the Madakhil Hiking Trail costs SAR 199 including a guide and refreshments. Adventure activities start from SAR 75 per person (SAR 30 for AlUla residents). Best for: This itinerary has plenty to keep young and energetic souls on their toes. If you like to venture off the beaten path, then this one’s for you. Good to know: You’re in very safe hands – the Madakhil Hiking Trail is designed and operated by Husaak Adventures, which has a team of experienced guides to lead you on your way.

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Itineraries 47


Elephant Rock

‘Head out early to Elephant Rock to see the sun rise over this muchloved monolith’

NATURE’S BOUNTY

Leave the electronics back at the hotel and refresh body and mind with this route that will help you get back in touch with nature MORNING

AFTERNOON

Ask your hotel to pack you up a

Get ready to explore the rocky

breakfast and head out early to

outcrops of the Ashar Valley,

Elephant Rock to see the sun rise over

which is a haven for rock art.

this much-loved monolith.

A local expert can accompany you

With that once-in-a-lifetime

on a walking tour, deciphering the

experience firmly ticked off your

inscriptions and petroglyphs as

wish list, you can take the 15-minute

you go.

transfer to AlUla Oasis. Here, you can explore at your own pace by venturing

EVENING

along the self-guided 4km-long Wadi

Following a delicious dinner at

of Hospitality trail. Pause to browse

Shaden Resort, you can gaze up

the stalls selling souvenirs and to sip a

at the beauty of the night sky

cup of fresh mint tea at the café.

at Al Gharameel. Dark and mysterious, it is the perfect

LUNCH

place for a spot of stargazing.

Stop for lunch at Barzan restaurant

With powerful telescopes,

or Almakher café, near AlUla Old

blankets and hot chocolate

Town, where you can dine alfresco in

available, it’s sure to be an

the shade of palm trees.

evening to remember.

Duration: Approximately 6 hours plus time for lunch. Best for: This itinerary is ideal for all ages. Keen photographers will find plenty to spark their creative juices while those seeking a chilled and rejuvenating experience are sure to be impressed. Good to know: You can hire a golf buggy, bicycle or horse to take you along the Wadi of Hospitality. Take around SAR 60 per person for lunch.

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Itineraries 49


AlUla Oasis

Face Rock

‘It’s like stepping into a painting, as the path you follow is characterised by generous washes of green and brown plant life’

CHASE THE OASIS

Follow in the footsteps of Bedouins by traversing this historic walking route Transport yourself to a bygone era by

Located within a field of fresh mint,

taking on this 3km trail, which connects

follow your nose to the appropriately

two ancient civilisations separated by

named café Tdail Mint, where you can

thousands of years: Dadan and AlUla

enjoy a restorative hot drink. Suitably

Old Town. Embarking on the journey

refreshed, you can continue along

is like stepping into a painting, as the

the trail until you reach AlUla Old

path you follow is characterised by

Town. The route is open daily from

generous washes of greens and browns

8am to 9pm.

thanks to the lush plant life that surrounds it. Carry on until you reach the midpoint – the beautiful AlUla Oasis.

MORE ROUTES TO TRY You can view our full list of suggested itineraries at experiencealula.com

Duration: Approximately 2 hours. Best for: Curious travellers who prefer to explore at their own pace. Good to know: Seeking the perfect memento? Two memorable scenes along the trail have been recreated by a local artist and reproduced as prints that are available to buy in the gift shop at the end of the trail.

50 experiencealula.com

Itineraries 51


Where to stay

DARE TO DREAM Escape to a luxury desert resort or camp out in a trendy Airstream trailer – AlUla’s accommodation options rock SHADEN RESORT Nestled amid striking rock formations, this traditional desert retreat will win you over with its warm Arabian hospitality and modern touches. Stay: There’s a collection of 121 Deluxe Rooms and Villas here, all of which have a private terrace or balcony. If you like to make a splash, choose one with a private pool. Large families should opt for the Royal Suite, which has six bedrooms, four bathrooms and ample space in which to unwind. Dine: There are four places to eat and drink, including seafood restaurant Fish Market and Holi, which specialises in Indian delights. Play: Take a dip in the swimming pool or head to the health club complex, which has a gym, sauna, steam room, and Jacuzzi. You can also join an aerobics class, book a pampering massage, or catch a movie at the cinema, which is open from 8pm to midnight. Book it: +966 50 604 3344, shaden-resort.com

‘This traditional desert retreat will win you over with its warm Arabian hospitality’ 52 experiencealula.com

Where to stay 53


‘This desert camp offers all the creature comforts you need for a memorable stay’

SAHARY ALULA RESORT This desert camp is characterised by its charming tent-style accommodation that places you in the lap of nature, albeit with all the creature comforts you need for a memorable stay. Stay: There are 80 spacious rooms and suites. Each is elegantly decorated and comes with its own private bathroom and terrace. Dine: Sahary Restaurant serves international cuisine and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – as does Desert Restaurant, which is open from December 2020. Room service is also available. Play: You can cool off in the swimming pool. There’s also a compact gym. Book it: +966 55 105 3222, saharyresort.com 54 experiencealula.com

Where to stay 55


‘These retro-chic trailers are just as good as they look’

AIRSTREAM RV RESORTS Immerse yourself in the great outdoors by staying in one of these state-of-the-art Airstream RVs. There are 50 in total, split between two locations: Ashar and Shaden. Stay: These retro-chic trailers are just as good as they look. Each has a bathroom, a mini-kitchen, and a covered patio area that’s cosy yet cool. Dine: It’s easy to rise and shine here, as you’ll get a continental breakfast delivered direct to your door each morning. There are also outdoor barbecue areas with seating. Play: Gather around the community firepit and settle in for the evening as you admire the starry night sky. Book it: Shaden RV Park is open from the end of October 2020. Ashar RV Park is open from January 2021. Visit experiencealula.com for the latest details and booking information. 56 experiencealula.com

Where to stay 57


HABITAS ALULA Open from December 2020, this community-focused, eco-friendly resort located in the desert canyons of the Ashar Valley will immerse you in the environment, heritage and people of the AlUla region, through a variety of culturally engaging, authentic experiences. The resort has been designed to blend with the landscape. It was manufactured at Habitas’ facilities in Mexico using sustainable materials, and delivered and assembled on-site in order to minimise its impact on the environment. Stay: There are 100 luxury rooms in total – 50 are open from December 2020 and the remainder will be unveiled in March 2021. You can choose from a Desert Suite (47sqm) or a larger Royal Suite (73sqm), which has a lounge area with a sofa that converts into a bed, as well as a covered terrace and large walkthrough closet. Dine: The Middle Eastern restaurant draws upon farm-to-table practices, bringing locally sourced ingredients to the fore. Play: You can get an authentic feel for the local way of life thanks to the community projects that are being rolled out in phases. These include sourcing handicrafts in collaboration with AlUla Girls’ School (a hub for nurturing local artisans), and cooking classes led by local chefs. In addition, you can unwind at the pool deck and wellness centre. Book it: habitasalula.com (active from November 2020).

58 experiencealula.com

Where to stay 59


‘This luxury camp in Ashar is a firm favourite’

ASHAR VALLEY RESORT Located at the southern end of the Ashar Valley, this luxury camp is a firm favourite. Stay: There are 44 accommodations to choose from, including luxurious three-bedroomed villas. Dine: Tuck into a buffet breakfast at Alban restaurant, which seats 40. There’s also a restaurant serving Middle Eastern and Mediterranean delights. Book it: Open for guests from 1 January 2021. Bookings are being accepted from October 2020 via experiencealula.com and from 1 January 2021 at all.accor.com. Please note that the resort will be closed for refurbishment from March to August 2021. 60 experiencealula.com

Where to stay 61


A total of 24 aspiring chefs from AlUla have been trained at the prestigious French culinary school, FERRANDI Paris

Where to eat

GREAT TASTE If all that exploring has given you an appetite, these vibrant eateries are just the ticket

Shaden Resort

SHADEN RESORT Boost your energy reserves by stopping for a casual meal at Shaden Restaurant. You can expect quality food, friendly service and affordable prices. The chefs cook up a storm in the kitchen, preparing everything from grilled meats to seafood, pasta dishes and traditional staples. Fish Market specialises in seafood with a Middle Eastern twist, with the chefs paying close attention to the

Shaden Resort

presentation of the plate. Lively Indian restaurant Holi prides itself on serving authentic dishes, such as butter chicken and lamb biryani, alongside refreshing drinks like mango lassi, while Outback Steakhouse serves sizzling steaks and Mexican favourites to satisfy your cravings. Opening hours: From 8am to 10/11pm in the winter season (call to check before you go). Shaden Restaurant is open all year round. Contact: +966 50 604 3344,

ALMAKHER

shaden-resort.com

This charming cafĂŠ, which accommodates up to 150, has an air

SAHARY RESTAURANT

of authenticity due to it being staffed

Taste a selection of international

solely by locals. Located in the heart

favourites at Sahary Restaurant at

of AlUla Oasis, near AlUla Old Town,

Sahary AlUla Resort, which is open

the cafĂŠ is ideal for an artisan coffee

for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

sipped in the garden to the sounds

Opening hours: From 8am to 10pm.

of birds chirping in the date palms.

Contact: +966 55 105 3222,

Opt for the classic combination

saharyresort.com

of Arabic coffee and dates, or try

62 experiencealula.com

Where to eat 63


Winter Park

something a bit different, such as

Caption

the iced pistachio flavoured coffee. Sandwiches, cold drinks and a selection of cakes are also available. At weekends, you can dine to live oud music. Opening hours: From 9am to 11pm in the winter and until 2am in the summer. Contact: +966 54688856. BARZAN Offering a mouthwatering mixture of Saudi Arabian, Egyptian and Syrian cuisine, this 200-seat eatery, located a stone’s throw from Dadan, will win you over with its traditional dishes. Choose from grilled meats, seafood, pasta and more. There’s also a selection of hot drinks and desserts. Opening hours: From 8am to 11pm. Contact: +966 541713076. HERITAGE GARDEN RESTAURANT Located in the city centre, this atmospheric restaurant serves a variety of traditional foods. Take a seat in one of the private rooms, or settle down on the carpet in the traditional style majlis – the latter is a great choice for large groups. The restaurant is next to a pretty courtyard, which has a small playground for kids. At weekends during the winter season, the courtyard is lined by stalls selling locally made crafts, jewellery and traditional clothes. There’s also a buzzing café nearby, Ghasn Al Ban,

Awna restaurant

where baristas serve gourmet coffees and desserts in an airy and modern

There’s also going to be a Middle

different Michelin-star chef every

2. At Al Jadidah, The Girls’ School

setting. Take the chance to enjoy your

Eastern restaurant, which draws

weekend during the 2019-2020

food truck is a novel addition to the

order alfresco on the rooftop.

upon farm-to-table practices at

Winter at Tantora culture festival.

food truck scene. A converted old

Opening hours: Daily from noon

Habitas AlUla, which opens in

You can find out about future pop-

school bus, it is run by members of

to midnight.

December 2020. Desert Restaurant

ups at experiencealula.com or via

the local community, each of whom

at Sahary AlUla Resort is also set to

Instagram @experiencealula.

makes a mean shawarma. For a quick

More on the menu…

open then. To find out more and to

AlUla’s four main heritages sites will

stay up-to-date about all the new

FOOD TRUCKS

ice cream or opt for a healthy fresh

offer a great range of restaurants

openings, please visit

For times when you want to grab a

juice. Opening in December 2020.

and cafés. The first to open will be

experiencealula.com.

quick bite on the move, make tracks

3. For a tasty burger, head to Orange

to the food trucks that are dotted

Road to grab a loaded patty from

a fine dining restaurant at Hegra

refresher, you can treat yourself to an

Fort. This will swiftly be followed

POP-UP RESTAURANTS

around AlUla.

the Airstream food truck. Enjoy

by a coffee shop overlooking Jabal

AlUla regularly welcomes pop-up

1. Winter Park, which is around five

it surrounded by the buzz of the

AlBanat and a further restaurant and

restaurants, meaning there’s always

minutes’ drive from Elephant Rock,

Orange Road market, which sells

café within the area. In addition, you

a coveted new dining experience to

has outdoor seating for up to

citrus fruits from the local farms

can look forward to two restaurants

look forward to. A recent example

150 people and is open from

during the winter. Opening in

and two cafés in AlUla Old Town.

is Awna restaurant, which hosted a

9am to midnight.

December 2020.

64 experiencealula.com

Where to eat 65


Maraya dining hall

Face Rock

FRUITS OF THE LAND The plentiful supply of water from the oasis has allowed plants and crops

Awna restaurant at night

to flourish in AlUla, producing ample harvests of barley, wheat, oat, figs, olives, citrus fruits, herbs and, of course, dates. Numerous varieties of the date fruit are grown here, the most famous of which is the sweet and sticky, yet highly nourishing barni date. Citrus fruits are also bountiful – there are 29 varieties in total. We recommend you try the juicy oranges, red grapefruits, sweet lemons and kumquats (referred to locally as maliki). At AlWadi Farm, near Winter Park, you can take a tour with a local farmer and pick your own fruits. Plus, there’s an on-site restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. The farm is open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 8pm from September to May, and from 5pm to 10pm from June to August. For bookings go through: mytable.sa

Fresh fruits and vegetables at the summer farm

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Where to eat 67


These images: Sharaan Nature Resort by Jean Nouvel

Future developments

ON THE HORIZON There are a number of mindful developments in the pipeline that will make you want to plan a return visit to AlUla. Here’s some insider intelligence…

AMAN RESORTS If you’re already a fan of Aman Resorts you’ll be pleased to know that the brand is making its Middle East debut in AlUla. The move will bring three luxury resorts to the area. First up is a spa concept resort featuring 30 luxury tents, which is being developed within a secluded and tranquil mountain valley close to many of AlUla’s main cultural and heritage areas. If a room with a view is your priority, you’ll gravitate towards the second resort, which promises a coveted address surrounded by awe-inspiring

Future developments

natural beauty. The third resort will have a desert ranch look and feel, with panoramic landscape vistas. Expect distinctive yet considered designs, but be prepared to wait: these resorts will welcome their first guests in 2023.

SHARAAN NATURE RESORT BY JEAN NOUVEL Deep in a valley of the Sharaan Nature Reserve, an exciting new resort by Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel is taking shape. While detailed plans for this newcomer are still under wraps, we do know that it’ll place you deep inside the tranquil reserve. Furthermore, it will be a lesson in how modern architecture sustainable development. As Nouvel says: “AlUla is a museum. Every wadi and escarpment, every stretch of sand and rocky outline, every geological and archeological site deserves the greatest consideration. It’s absolutely vital we keep all its distinctiveness and conserve its attractiveness, which largely rests on 68 experiencealula.com

Images: © Ateliers Jean Nouvel

can coexist with nature and support

Future developments 69


Maraya concert and entertainment venue

its remote and occasionally archaic character. We have to safeguard a little mystery as well as the promise of discoveries to come.� The resort will offer suites and villas, a number of restaurants and a summit centre. There will also be a collection of private villas for sale.

ASHAR RESORT BY BANYAN TREE The existing Ashar Valley Resort will

Future developments Top and above : Ashar Resort by Banyan Tree

be expanded to add 47 new high-end villas into the fold. Operated by Accor,

valleys and open desert areas with

under the Banyan Tree brand, the

scattered rocky outcrops. Over time,

luxury resort will be transformed into

the flora has been nibbled away

a hospitality haven with a total of 82

by domestic livestock but it is now

impressive villas, as well as a lavish

being nurtured back to its former

spa and several gourmet restaurants.

glory. Once this has been achieved, there is a huge opportunity to

SHARAAN NATURE RESERVE

re-introduce a number of native

Conservation is key in AlUla, and the

flora and fauna species, including

area has an important role to play

indigenous acacia trees, the Nubian

in Saudi Arabia’s vision to preserve

ibex, red-necked ostrich and Idmi

its natural assets. As such, a team of

gazelles, as well as larger predators

environmental conservation experts

such as the Arabian leopard.

is working hard to re-establish the

After a successful pilot

rich variety of native plants and

reintroduction in 2019, further

wildlife that once flourished here.

animal releases are planned for

The goal is being realised through

2020 and 2021, and the animals

the Sharaan Nature Reserve project,

will be closely monitored. The

which aims to set a standard in

Nature Reserve is not yet open to

the region for re-balancing the

the public, but once the planning is

fragile desert ecosystem.

completed, a specially trained team

It is located in the canyon area of

of rangers, including members

Sharaan, where red-rock canyons

of the local community, will

meet steep-sided ravines, wide

be its guardians.

70 experiencealula.com

Epic events AlUla has already earned a reputation as an emerging destination for events, but this is just the beginning. Concert venue Maraya is pegged to become the beating heart of the events scene in the future. Its busy yearround calendar of performances will be enhanced by seasonal festivals, pop-up art installations, and more. Keep up to date with the announcements at experiencealula.com. Future developments 71


Images: Khaybar

Beyond AlUla

TO ALULA AND BEYOND Whether it’s city, desert or sea you’re after, these nearby destinations are the perfect add-ons to your stay in AlUla

KHAYBAR AlUla’s neighbouring county Khaybar is also blessed with imprints of past civilisations. The area stretches 656 km² and is home to key archaeological sites, such as old town forts, keyhole Stone Age burial sites and historical oases. It also has a captivating volcanic landscape

‘Khaybar is blessed with imprints of past civilisations and a captivating volcanic landscape’

home to the White and Black

Caribbean a run for its money. Go island hopping, tour the nearby mango farms and pencil in enough time to make the hour-long inland drive to Harrat Lunayyir, a black lava field peppered with craters and cones. How to get there: Approximately 310km from AlUla (roughly a 3-hour 40-minute drive).

Volcano and its lava fields known as ‘haraat’. The expansive underground

sun at Yam Beach, or take a swan

NEOM – ONE TO WATCH

network of lava caves carry basalt

paddleboat out with the kids at the

Emerging destination Neom is

lava for hundreds of miles. It’s an

Marina Canal. There are watersports

a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s

active volcano, although the most

to suit all skill levels at Lagoona

Vision 2030. The forward-thinking

recent recorded eruption took place

Adventure, mini golf at Juman Park

mega-city, which is 35 times the

between 600-700 CE.

and a challenging 700-metre-long

size of Singapore, is situated in the

karting track to whizz your way

northwest of the Kingdom, on the

the historical sites, with plans in

around. Culture seekers can take a

Red Sea, near to the borders of

place to make it easier to access and

walking tour of the Art District, which

both Egypt and Jordan. Its unique

travel between the main attractions.

has a fantastic showcase of graffiti,

geographical location affords Neom

Developments in the area will give

caricatures and more by local artists.

a temperate climate that’s roughly

rise to lots of exciting ways to

How to get there: K AEC is

10°C cooler, on average, than the

discover Khaybar, including aerial

approximately 575km from AlUla

rest of the GCC. It is being built from

tours. Check experiencealula.com for

(just over a 6-hour drive).

the ground up to include towns

Currently, the focus is on preserving

more information.

and cities, ports and enterprise

How to get there: Approximately

UMLUJ

zones, research centres, sports and

220km (just over a 2-hour drive)

This small coastal town is often

entertainment venues, as well as top

from AlUla.

referred to as ‘the Maldives of Saudi

tourist attractions. Once completed,

Arabia’. Comprising 104 little islands,

it’s expected to attract more than a

THE RED SEA

it is a top spot for scuba diving and

million people from around the world

King Abdullah Economic City

snorkelling. You’ll find fringing reefs,

to live and work there.

Discover Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea

such as Jabal Hassan, just off the

How to get there: Approximately

delights at King Abdullah Economic

sandy beaches, and you may even

415km from AlUla (roughly a 4-hour

City (K AEC). This modern hub is a

spot Hawksbill turtles, dolphins and

45-minute drive).

hive of activity with luxury hotels,

dugong sea cows. The warm waters

spas, glamorous marinas and a

are actually home to more than

ALWAJH

wide range of fun activities on offer.

1,200 fish species and 300 species

You can admire traditional Hijazi

Spend a relaxing day soaking up the

of hard coral – enough to give the

architecture in AlWajh. The city

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Beyond AlUla 73


Caption The White and Black Volcano, Khaybar

is flanked by unspoilt beaches to the north and south, and there are several historical monuments to discover. Also on your itinerary should be Al-Zareb Castle in the mountains, which was once a resting place for pilgrims. How to get there: Approximately 245km from AlUa (around a 2½-hour drive). JEDDAH This historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2014, is a vibrant mixture of traditional architecture, atmospheric souks, delicious cuisines

Tabuk

and high-end resorts dotted along the picturesque coastline. you to the most popular stop-offs,

head to Ras Alsheikh Hamid to see the

day in the historic district of Al-

as well as some secluded spots.

famous Catalina seaplane wreckage

Balad. The cobblestone streets are

Either set off on a bespoke itinerary

that was abandoned on the beach

lined with traditional houses offering

on a yacht, or hop aboard a luxury

in 1960.

a fantastic display of the Hijazi

cruise ship. Red Sea Spirit offers two

architecture of the old city – think

cruise itineraries. The first spans

beaches, and you can count on the

bay windows overlaid with intricate

three nights (four days), departing

locals to teach you the steps to the

wooden latticework and ornate

from King Abdullah Port in K AEC,

traditional Sesameya dance.

coral masonry.

spending a day in both Yanbu and

How to get there: Approximately

Ras Abyadh, followed by a day at

360km from AlUla (roughly a

along Gabel Street Souk, which is

sea, before returning to K AEC on

3-hour drive)

brimming with boutiques selling

the fourth day. The second itinerary,

handicrafts, spices, fabrics and

a four-night trip (five days) also

MEDINA

traditional clothing.

departing from King Abdullah Port,

Saudi Arabia’s second holiest city,

takes you to Neom, Magna, Yanbu,

Medina, is an important Islamic

attractions, too. Jeddah Tower,

Ras Abyadh and back to K AEC

pilgrimage site, home to the striking

what will be the world’s tallest tower,

on the fifth day. To find out more,

green-domed Al-Masjid an-Nabawi

is being built there. Meanwhile,

contact Red Sea Spirit on 800 897

(The Prophet’s Mosque). It is also the

the waterfront district of Jeddah

1419 or redseaspirit.com.

site of Masjid Quba, the first mosque

Architecture fans will have a field

You can shop for keepsakes

Jeddah has plenty of modern

Tabuk is also known for its beautiful

Atallah Happy Land Park, an

TABUK

Qiblatayn, where Muhammad (PBUH),

amusement park with various

Tabuk is the capital city of the

the last Islamic prophet, received

rides and games, as well as Fakieh

Tabuk Region in northwestern Saudi

the command to change the Qibla

Aquarium. After the sun has set,

Arabia and the largest city in the

(direction of prayer) to Makkah.

head to the 312m-high King Fahd’s

north of the Kingdom. Situated

Fountain (the world’s largest) to see

close to the border with Jordan, it is

the historic Seven Mosques (Sab’u

its burst of water bathed in colourful

known as the northern gateway to

Masajid), and Mount Uhud (north of

lights.

the Arabian Peninsula. It’s sure to

Medina) where the Battle of Uhud took

How to get there: Approximately

deliver a fantastic introduction, with

place. There are lots of hotels in the

680km (roughly a 7½-hour drive)

its roster of important monuments

city centre. Bear in mind that Nabawi

from AlUla. Or, you could fly into King

and attractions to discover, many of

Square, where Al-Masjid Al-Nabawi is

Abdulaziz International Airport (JED).

which speak to the rich history of

located, is only open to Muslims.

the region.

How to get there: Approximately

Caption

Other notable landmarks include

Traverse the sandy dunes in a four-

330km from AlUla (roughly a 3-hour

Want to stretch your sea legs? You

wheel drive at the Al-Zeeta Mountains,

40-minute drive). Or, you can fly into

could roll your Red Sea adventures

take a trip to the town of Magna to visit

Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz

into one amazing cruise that will take

the 12 Springs of Prophet Moses, and

International Airport (MED).

74 experiencealula.com

Hijazi architecture in Jeddah

in the history of Islam, and Masjid al-

Corniche calls. Here, you’ll find

RED SEA CRUISES

Tabuk Castle

Beyond Beyond AlUla 75


Hegra tombs

Useful information

NEED TO KNOW Handy information, at your fingertips VISITOR INFORMATION To find the latest information and advice use the Visitor Centres at Winter Park, Dadan/ Jabal Ikmah and Hegra. Information desks are also located at Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic Airport in AlUla, as well as at Shaden Resort, and Sahary AlUla Resort.

Hegra

ROYAL COMMISSION FOR ALULA The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) is developing AlUla into a

local customs and traditions:

to carry some small change at all

world-class tourist destination.

• Dress modestly when in public. As

times. There are ATMs in AlUla,

Call: +920025852

a rule of thumb, you should avoid

but there is no currency exchange.

For international callers:

tight-fitting clothes and any items

You can change your money at

+966 11 828 6900

bearing images or words that may

Riyadh or Jeddah airports.

Email: rcuinfo@rcu.gov.sa

offend. Women should cover their

Tweet: RCU_SA

shoulders and knees – wearing a

TRAVEL INSURANCE

Visit: rcu.gov.sa

head cover or abaya is optional.

It’s a wise idea to purchase travel

• Steer clear of using profane

insurance for your trip that will

LANGUAGE

language or gestures.

cover you for any travel

Arabic is the Kingdom’s official

• Couples do not need to

related issues, such as loss of

language, but English is widely

provide proof of marriage in

belongings, and in the event

spoken. It’s polite to master a

order to share a hotel room.

of a medical emergency.

few friendly greetings, such as

• Public displays of affection

The nearest hospital is Prince

“marhaba” (“hello”) and “salaam

are best avoided.

Abdulmohsen Hospital in AlUla

alaikum” (“peace be upon you”).

• It is against the law to buy, sell or

(about 45 minutes from Hegra).

consume alcohol in Saudi Arabia.

There are also a number of well-

WEEKENDS

• Women aged 18 and over can travel

stocked pharmacies in AlUla City.

The weekend falls on

independently (including driving

Friday/Saturday.

and booking hotel rooms) without

ELECTRONICS AND WI-FI

the need for male companions.

In Saudi Arabia the power

LOCAL CUSTOMS

plugs and sockets are type

Saudi Arabia is a Muslim country

CURRENCY EXCHANGE

G – three rectangular pins in a

that follows Islamic law. As a

The local currency is the Saudi Riyal

triangular pattern (the same

visitor, you should be mindful of

(SAR). Some shops in town only

as in the UK and Dubai).

cultural sensitivities, as well as the

accept cash, so it’s a good idea

76 experiencealula.com

There are Wi-Fi hotspots

AlUla Oasis

Information 77


at a number of locations,

Catch a vintage Jeep transfer across Dadan

as well as in all hotels. If you’re coming from outside Saudi Arabia, you could consider

LEAVE NO TRACE

buying a local mobile SIM card

Help protect your precious heritage

from a telecom provider at Riyadh or Jeddah airports. SIM providers

TAKE NOTHING BUT PICTURES,

in AlUla include Saudi Telecom

LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS

Company (STC) in Al Sakhirat,

Hegra is the first UNESCO World

Mobily in Al Shamal Market

Heritage Site to be inscribed in Saudi

and Zain in AlUla city centre.

Arabia. It is globally recognised as a precious place. Dadan, Jabal Ikmah

HELPFUL NUMBERS

and AlUla Old Town are equally

• The country code for

significant. They are also delicate. We

Saudi Arabia is +966

want our heritage sites and natural

• Tourism Call Centre: 930

beauty spots in AlUla to be marvelled

Tourism International Call

at for thousands of years to come.

Centre: +966 920 000 890

This will only be possible if every visitor

• Police: 999

becomes part of its conservation story,

If you are in a car accident, call

by enjoying your visit while treating this

the traffic police on 993

precious place with care and respect.

• Saudi Ambulance: 997

convenience. They are a short

FURTHER INFORMATION official website experiencealula.com and engage with us on social media @experiencealula via Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

PARK IN THE ALLOCATED AREAS Parking areas are located for your

• Emergency medical consultation: 937

To find out more about AlUla, visit the

From left to right: Tomb of Lihyan son of Kuza; Dadan

‘It’s polite to master a few friendly greetings, such as “marhaba” (“hello”)’

SEE YOU AGAIN SOON

RESPECT THE MONUMENTS

walk from the heritage sites

The monuments may seem mighty, but

and activities.

they are fragile. Regard these sites as

Please:

precious treasures, in an extraordinary

• Park your car in the designated

open-air museum, to be admired and

parking areas only.

not mistreated.

• Avoid parking near the monuments.

Please: • Do not climb.

KEEP TO THE ROADS. THIS IS A

• Do not scratch, draw or in any way

PRECIOUS LANDSCAPE, WITH

mark the monuments.

HISTORIC REMAINS BURIED BENEATH THE SANDS AT HEGRA.

Saudi Arabia has a number of special occasions and holidays, so if you’re planning a return visit, you may want to bear these dates in mind…

KEEP IT AS YOU FOUND IT

Please:

We want to keep AlUla beautiful, and

• Drive on the graded and paved

its heritage intact. We welcome you,

roads only.

Ramadan. The holy month is a special

Ramadan is likely take place from 13

holiday – known as ‘the greater

not your waste. We want you to make

• Avoid driving on the sand.

time of year, when Muslims dial down

April to 12 May 2021, depending on the

Eid’ – falls on the tenth day in the

memories, not take mementos.

• Avoid driving on the walkways.

the pace and take time to reflect on

sighting of the new moon.

final month (Dhu al-Hijjah) of the

Please:

Islamic calendar. Most businesses

• Put your litter in the bin, or take it

Visitors who do not comply will be asked to leave the area.

the important things in life. Those observing Ramadan will fast from

Eid Al Fitr. Marking the end of

remain closed and restaurants

with you.

sunrise to sunset and, as a sign of

Ramadan, this is a time for family

may have shorter operating hours

• Do not smoke at Hegra or any other

respect, visitors must refrain from

and friends to come together. In

either side of this holiday. In 2021,

heritage sites, except in designated

KEEPING SAFE

eating or drinking in public during

AlUla, this means sharing good food

Eid Al Adha is likely to fall on 20,

smoking areas.

Many parts of AlUla are an open

daylight hours. Most cafés and

and conversation with the locals, and

21 or 22 July.

• Do not remove or take anything from

expanse, and exposed to the elements.

restaurants are closed during the day,

taking part in lots of fun activities.

the tombs.

We encourage every visitor to take

although you can usually order room

Bear in mind that, during the first three

Saudi National Day. Join in

• Do not remove or take anything from

responsibility for his or her own

service at your hotel, or order take out

days, some businesses may be closed

the festivities that mark the

the ground.

health and safety.

or delivery.

and restaurants may operate shorter

anniversary of the unification of

opening hours. In 2021, Eid Al Fitr is

the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on

PROTECTING NATURE

• Stay hydrated.

likely to fall on 12 or 13 May.

23 September. A national holiday

• No fires of any kind are permitted,

• Observe the speed limit.

in the Kingdom, businesses close

including campfires.

AlUla comes to life after sunset, with restaurants opening for iftar – the

Please:

meal that breaks the fast – and shops

Eid Al Adha. Celebrating the completion

for the day, allowing special events

• No trees, plants, or stones are to

IN THE CASE OF AN EMERGENCY,

open late into the evening. In 2021,

of the Hajj pilgrimage, the second Eid

and activities to take centre stage.

be removed.

CALL 911.

78 experiencealula.com

PLEASE DO Appreciate that Hegra has fascinated generations of explorers and archaeologists. Some of the discoveries date to the Bronze Age, and are almost as old as the Egyptian pyramids. Gaze in awe and admiration at the skills and ingenuity of the builders of Hegra’s tombs. These tombs were once the resting place of families and communities, so please treat them with respect. Understand that AlUla’s heritage sites hold a very special place in the heart of the people of AlUla, and the global heritage community, so please behave with decorum. We hope that you enjoy your visit to this fascinating open-air living museum.

Leave Information no trace 79


TRAVEL SAFELY Travelling during the Covid-19 pandemic requires some extra considerations, and AlUla has a number of measures in place to help make your visit as safe as possible

1

Body temperature checks are being carried out on all visitors arriving at Prince Abdul Majeed Bin Abdulaziz Domestic Airport. Furthermore, in

all public places, people are reminded to maintain a safe distance of two metres apart and avoid physical contact unless absolutely necessary.

2

Staff and visitors alike are being prompted to wash their hands frequently with soap and water. You’ll find plenty of sanitisation stations

at the main sites. Where handwashing facilities are not immediately available, sanitiser gel dispensers are provided.

3

A number of essential employees are on-site at any one time. And staff who come into contact with visitors are provided with masks and

gloves. High-touch items and surfaces are disinfected frequently and areas are kept well ventilated.

4 5

Dedicated dining areas have been configured to allow you to sit at safe distances. Tables are sanitised between each use and at the end of

the day. A dedicated security team is on hand to help ensure the guidelines are observed. If you have any questions relating to travelling during the

Covid-19 pandemic, please call the national helpline for tourism queries on 930, which is staffed around the clock.

80 experiencealula.com


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The Official Visitor Guide AlUla  

Discover the striking heritage sites and immerse yourself in the experiences and activities on offer at Arabia’s best-kept secret, which is...

The Official Visitor Guide AlUla  

Discover the striking heritage sites and immerse yourself in the experiences and activities on offer at Arabia’s best-kept secret, which is...